Library Research: A Step-By-Step Guide

Use this guide to learn more about the research process


Some definitions

A citation

A citation reflects all of the information a person would need to locate a particular source. For example, basic citation information for a book consists of name(s) of author(s) or editor(s), title of the book, name of publisher, place of publication, and most recent copyright date.

Citation styles

A citation style (such as "APA" or "MLA") dictates the information necessary for a citation and how the information is ordered, as well as punctuation and other formatting.


A bibliography is an organized list of citations.

Annotated bibliographies

In an annotated bibliography, each citation is followed by a brief note—or annotation—that describes and/or evaluates the source and the information found in it.

A works cited or reference page

A works cited (MLA style) or references (APA style) list presents citations for those sources referenced or cited in a particular paper, presentation, or other composition.

In-text citations

An in-text citation consists of just enough information to correspond to a source's full citation in a Works Cited or References list. In-text citations often require a page number (or numbers) showing exactly where relevant information was found in the original source.

An Abstract

An abstract is a summary of an article or other work and cannot be used as if it were the full text. You should not reference or cite an abstract in a paper or presentation, but instead find the full text.

Step 5: Cite your sources

Why Cite Sources?

Avoid Plagiarizing

You must cite any direct quotation, summary, or paraphrase of any idea or fact from your research. Citing sources is giving credit to the original author and publication where you found the information. 

Lend Authority to Your Research: 

By referencing the work of scholars and other professionals, you demonstrate that your own research is based on solid, reliable information and that you are capable of critical thinking by being able to synthesize that research into your own.

Provide a Path: 

By citing sources, you provide the information readers of your paper need in order to locate the same sources that you did. 

Acknowledge Other's Work: 

Part of your research is built upon the research of other people. It is respectful and fair to give them credit for their hard work (just as you would hope someone would give you credit if they were quoting your own work!)

What are citations?

Citation Basics

Review the list and image below, which both outline how the in-text citation in your essay connects to the larger reference page of your work. 

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An image of how an in-text citation goes hand in hand with a reference list

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  1. Place in-text citations in the body of the paper to acknowledge the source of your information.  This is meant to be a shortened version of the full citation that appears on the final page of your paper.
  2. Place full citations for all your sources on the last page entitled References or Works Cited (different citation styles require different titles).  Full citations are meant to provide readers with enough information so that they can locate the source themselves.
  3. APA or MLA are citation styles.  Each has different guidelines for how source information (author, title, year...etc.) should be formatted and punctuated for both in-text citations and for the References or Works Cited pages
Consult a guide for the specific citation style you are using:

Resources to learn more about why you should cite!

Avoid Plagiarism

Check and cite your sources

image of a magnifying glass and a paper - showing to look closely

Citations are crucial to avoiding plagiarism and in giving credit to the creators of the sources you used! But citations are very nitty gritty; they're all about the tiny details! Take the time to sign up for a NoodleTools account that can help you get those citations created with ease!

Image Source: "Verification" by Mohamed Hassan is in the Public Domain, CC0

Automatic citation generator


Access online tutorials using the links below:

Quick guides: APA and MLA

Citation Quick Guides